From the Heart (Matthew 5:21-37)

Today’s scripture contains some of the most challenging sayings of Jesus.  Not only does Jesus implore us to take care with our behavior, we are even challenged to watch our thoughts.  What if we were able to recognize Christ’s forgiveness extends even to the violence of our thoughts?

Try this guided meditation as a place to start that radical forgiveness.

Imagine a beautiful hill and imagine yourself climbing it, never tired in your body, never tired of looking around at this gorgeous place….

Now imagine that you get to the top of the hill, and the view of the valleys and plains around you opens up.  You can see a long way.  Imagine that the place spread before you is the country of your inner life….

It is populated with all the people you have known and every place you have ever been and everything you have ever done.  As you look over it, you can see it at a distance, yet you can see it all clearly….

Take a few moments to locate someone precious, or something that brings you joy, or someplace that brings you peace from sometime in your life.  Enjoy your memories and feelings as you look upon that beloved person, object or place….

Now turn your gaze.  Somewhere in the vast country of your inner life, there is something that still feels out of place.  Somewhere is stored those thoughts that bring you regret.

From your safe place, high on the hill, you can look upon those thoughts with fresh eyes.  You can see them for what they are–one part of the country of your inner life, not the whole of it….

Look at it from this distance and with this clarity.  See again how the thing you thought, that once seemed so huge, is only one place in the country of your inner life, one part of all the vastness that you have seen and known….

Allow yourself to imagine how it would change the geography of the country of your life if you were to recognize that Christ forgives the thing that needs forgiving….

Would the thing change in shape or color?  Would it reflect or absorb the light in a different way?  Would it become smaller?  Would it disappear altogether, leaving room for something new?….

Allow yourself to know that it is already forgiven by a God whose love is more powerful than any human thought….

Notice if anything in you has changed.  You might notice that you feel lighter now….

You might feel more satisfied about the future of the country of your life–ready for whatever lies ahead.  Renewed, you return back down the hill.  You might find yourself walking more quickly now–almost running, your feet almost flying off the ground…

You might want to journal about your experience of entering this meditation, or share it with friends or a spiritual guide like your pastor.  Does imagining Christ’s forgiveness help it seem closer to you?


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The Vision Beautiful (Matthew 5:1-12)

The Beatitudes

When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the  mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him.  Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven:  Blessed is the family bankrupted by medical costs.  Blessed is the elder who stands with a cardboard sign asking for money at the end of the on-ramp.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted:  Blessed is the one who has lost loved ones to preventable illness.  Blessed is the one who grieves the loss of a job to retirement or restructure.

Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth:  Blessed is the one who flees the violence of war in one nation, only to experience the violence of detention in another.  Blessed is the one who cannot speak for himself, whose only language is the anguish in his eyes.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled:  Blessed is the one who travels by three busses to find affordable groceries in her city.  Blessed is the one whose kitchen is empty, but who can’t find a food pantry in his rural area.

Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy:  Blessed is the one on social media who asks a genuine question rather than starts a fight.  Blessed is the one who offers solace to the addict without demanding proof that she is worthy.

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God:  Blessed is the one who tells the truth, even when a lie would be easier.  Blessed is the one who receives the truth with grace and curiosity.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God:  Blessed is the one who marches in the streets for peace in the world.  Blessed is the one who sits on a prayer cushion for peace in their heart.

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven:  Blessed is the one who is wrongfully accused and imprisoned. Blessed is the one who has served time, only to find himself barred from housing and work upon his release.

These blessings from Christ, known as the Beatitudes, continue to have resonance in our world today.  Spend some time in prayerful consideration of the Beatitudes you have witnessed in your community.

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This Week at St. John’s UCC

The Community Gathers to Worship the Living God

Centering Prayer:  We gather in this space, almighty God, to praise your name.  Help us lay aside our worries, our fears, our frustrations, and our anxieties, that we may be free to truly worship you.  Through the power of your Spirit, empower us to seek your ways, walk in the footsteps of Christ, come before you with our whole heart, and live as your faithful servants.  In the name of Christ, we pray.  Amen.

Sunday, February 16–Worship, 10:30 a.m.; Pastor Carol’s message is titled “Jesus’ Radical Prescription”, and is based on Matthews 5:21-26.  The choir will sing during the worship service.  A fellowship hour takes place in Oppermann Hall following the worship service.

Tuesday, February 18–Ladies meet at LuLu’s, 9 a.m.; Chili cook-off held in the Middle School Cafetorium, 5:30 to 7 p.m.

Wednesday, February 19–Men meet at Arby’s, 8:30 a.m.

Thursday, February 20–Community dinner at Sr. Center, 6 p.m.; choir practice, 7 p.m.

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Fall Hours Begin September 8, 2019

Beginning September 8, 2019, and continuing until the first Sunday in June, 2020, Faith Formation classes will meet at 9:30 a.m., and worship starts at 10:30 a.m.

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Our Daily Bread Soup Kitchen

If you would like to volunteer for helping serve at Our Daily Bread soup kitchen in Lima on Tuesday,  March 24, 2020,  please sign up on the bulletin board in the sanctuary.  Helpers are always welcome.

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Facebook Page

You are missing out on a super way to advertise our church if you are not sharing with many of your other Facebook friends St. John’s Facebook page.  There are many interesting articles posted every day.  “Friend” all of your friends and ask them to “Like” the St. John’s page–let’s let people know we are here, alive, and moving forward!

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St Johns Snow

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This website can now be found at!

In an effort to make this site easier for you to access, it can now be found at!  You can still find this page using the old web address, but now it will be easier to tell family and friends where they can find up-to-date news about St. John’s UCC in Bluffton, Ohio.

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